Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône, Bouches-du-Rhône, France

Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône is a common French located in the department of the Rhone delta region Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, created in 1904 by need for Arles and Lyon have a port at the mouth of the Rhône.

Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône is an industrial town and port annex of Marseille at the mouth of the Rhône River, and includes many parks, large avenues and large farmhouses known as camarguais. The Camargue produces primarily salt and mineral oil. There are also petrochemical factories and grain mills.

Port-Saint-Louis is located between the Grand-Rhône to the west (Rhône delta, eastern limit of the Camargue) and the Gulf of Fos to the east, opening onto the Mediterranean. It is an industrial city and an annex port of Marseille. The territory of the town is uniformly at the water’s edge, an extension of the Camargue. There are also many swamps and cultivated areas, vast salt marshes.

The town has three popular beaches: Napoleon beach, Olga beach, and Carteau beach. There are many marshes and cultivated plans nearby, and vast salt-water marshes of the Camargue swamp. Local wildlife includes herds of wild horses and pink flamingos being in the marshes.

In 1711, during the winter a great flood caused the change of the bed of the Rhône, between Chamone and the sea. That is to say on the 25 kilometers of its current course. To compensate the owners whose land had been submerged by the new bed of the river, the King’s Council had imposed an additional tax on all Lyonnais, Dauphiné, Languedoc & Provence. This tax was levied on the transport of salt by waterway from 1723, and was thus to finance the diking of the new arm of the river called Canal des Launes.

In 1737, the tax is used for the construction of the Tour Saint Louis located at that time at the main mouth of the Rhône. The Saint-Louis tower was built in 1737 by the military engineer Mareschal, also architect of the Saint-Christophe cathedral in Belfort, the gardens of the Fontaine in Nîmes or the former theater in Montpellier.

In 1802: Study of the Canal d’Arles à Bouc with the support of the 1st Consul, Napoleon Bonaparte to facilitate the connection between the Rhône and the Sea by avoiding the delta. The project will be carried out in 1834.

In 1863: The public utility decree concerning the excavation works of the Saint Louis canal is signed by Napoleon III, the promoter will be Hippolyte Peut. The following lines are taken from and / or inspired by the monograph published in 1983 by MM. Émile Boncœur, Jean-Louis Charrière and Jean-Louis Mattéi, Contribution to the history of Port Saint Louis du Rhône: “A decree of 1863 declares of public utility the project of creation of the Saint-Louis canal, of a basin and of a lock, the adjudication of works takes place in 1864, they will be carried out with modifications: additions of jetties, dikes, larger basin area, the canal was opened to navigation in 1871. The canal was excavated dry and the cuttings were used to establish land-plains, slightly raising an area whose altitude was close to level 0 ”

In 1864: Beginning of the excavation works of the port. At that time, the location of the city was nothing but swamps rife with malarial fevers which caused frightening mortality among the workers of this immense site. In 1871: August 15, the canal is opened to traffic. It will be fully completed on September 28, 1873. The creation of a port at the mouth of the Rhône largely stems from the constraints of geography weighing on economic needs. The Rhône being impassable to ships other than those with very shallow draft, bypassing the mouth of the main branch is essential. The canal des fosses mariennes (102/103 BC) and the canal from Arles to Bouc (1834) were already part of this idea. From the xvii th century, attempts have been to correct the mouth by damming the river to create a flushing effect. The concern was also to control the wandering of the river which has changed course several times, as history and geology attest.

In 1880: There are barely 300 inhabitants in the new agglomeration, they will be 2,500 in the 1906 census. In 1881: The Compagnie Générale de Navigation settles in Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône and will build maritime warehouses between the quays and the Tower. This is the port’s official “birth” date. In 1883: Inauguration of the Canal Saint Louis. In 1885: Paul Daher opens his first transit, stevedoring and shipping agency office. The parish was built in 1886. The town planning is airy (many green spaces and vast avenues). There are large Camargue mas. There are also horses serving in herds for example, as well as flamingos in the marshes. In 1887: Inauguration of the Arles / Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône railway line which opens up the city until then linked to Arles by means of a small steamboat which provided a daily return trip, except the Sunday and holidays… if the winds and high water permitted. In 1892: Port Saint Louis has about 1,800 inhabitants, with “about sixty houses regularly built… the working population is housed in modest huts.”

In 1904: Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône straddles two towns: 1/6 on Fos sur Mer and 5/6 on Arles. The law of March 28, 1904 is a key date for the city, it becomes a municipality and its first mayor will be Mr. Antoine Calment. In 1906: The city is a world of men, in the Faubourg Hardon, there are three men for one woman. The Italians were numerous at that time, it was only after the First World War that the Greeks settled in Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône. The population is essentially made up of fishermen, sailors, factory workers, salt workers and civil servants. In 1907: Ratification of its municipal status by the construction of a Town Hall. In 1908- 1909: Construction of the Gautier mill. The two Gautier brothers are well-known flour millers from Marseille. “The flour mill is the most beautiful establishment that the department can be proud of, operating entirely on electricity, the most powerful too, with a daily capacity of 3,000 quintals which puts it in second place among French flour mills”. In 1913: Installation of electricity.

In 1930: Water supply from the Pissarote. Until then we drank water from the Rhône filtered through carbon filters and when it was brackish, we had to bring water from the boats from Arles (the Joan of Arc) to supply the population with fresh water. In 1932: The city counts 4,200 inhabitants, it is the 2nd port of France in traffic of goods after Marseille and before Sète. Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône becomes a canton with the law of November 15, a fairly rare situation for a small town. In 1937: The Arles Chamber of Commerce equips the Port with modern equipment designed to meet the needs of maritime trade.

In 1942: Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône is occupied by German troops, the beaches are prohibited. The city will be liberated on August 25, 1944 but the port facilities will be destroyed.

In 1946: The population takes off and grows with such rapidity that it doubles between 1954 and 1975 to reach more than 10,000 inhabitants. In 1958: Construction of the Protestant Temple in the form of a gardian’s hut.

In 1961: Construction of the Orthodox church. In 1963: Creation of the Ferrigno company, today it is the only French fish tanker on the seafront. In 1966: Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône is integrated into the Port Autonome de Marseille in its extension to the West. In 1977: Construction of the arenas, beginning of the breeding of mussels on an experimental basis.

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Between 1980 and 1990: The city lost 18% of its population with the decline of industry and the postponement of port activity in Fos sur Mer. In 1983: Creation of the cooperative of mussel producers: COOPAPORT

In 1992: Inauguration of the Port de Plaisance in the central basin. In 1994: Inauguration of the Mobile Bridge still used today, it replaces a Scherzer type mobile bridge built in 1924/25 (identical to the Pegasus Bridge in Bénouville – Calvados): In 1996: Construction of the Bell Tower

In 2004: Celebration of the city’s Centenary.

Culture heritage

Saint-Louis tower
The Saint-Louis tower is the oldest monument in the city: it dates from 1737. In its history it was used as a light and watchtower. From its terrace you have an exceptional view of the Camargue, the Rhone and the salt marshes. The tower now houses the tourist office and an ornithological collection. About eight kilometers southeast of the tower is an approximately four kilometers long and 200 m wide, fine sandy beach that can be reached by car.

The tower St. Louis, building 18th century high by Jacques Philippe Mareschal, home to the largest collection of bird Camargue, with 168 stuffed birds on the first floor. It is also the seat of the Tourist Office. There is also a mini golf course in the surrounding gardens.

Other sites
Sheds, dwellings, most often made of wood and recycled materials, which were once a refuge for hunters and fishermen. They are still inhabited today.
Gardian’s hut, traditional dwelling of the people of the marshes, old furniture, calls, everyday objects, tools.
Visits to the fish cannery and the shellfish purification station.
La ferme du Tadorne, animal reserve.
Arena with 1,800 seats.
Gérard-Philipe cultural space.
Le Citron Jaune, National Center for Street Arts.

Natural heritage

Camargue Regional Natural Park
Since 2012 the city of Port Saint Louis du Rhône has integrated the territory of the Regional Natural Park of Camargue

Mazet park
The city of Port Saint Louis du Rhône acquire a new park with a new concept: an intergenerational park. Located at the entrance to the Mazet area, just after the lock bridge, along the Saint Louis canal, nearly 5 hectares will be returned to the inhabitants by offering them a multitude of activities: concert area, area picnic, sports equipment for young and old, garden of fountains and of course a parking lot that will allow everyone to come and meet!

The Wind Farm
With a power of 20MW, this park made up of an alignment of 25 wind turbines was the first of its kind installed in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region in August 2005. Each wind turbine has a mast height of 48m and carries blades 26m long. Thus the total height of the machine is 75m providing 850kW of power.

The whole represents the consumption of more than 21,000 households, or nearly 63,000 people. The initial project provided for a second phase bringing the number of wind turbines to 36, but ultimately stopped there. Twenty-five wind turbines still provide clean energy to Port Saint Louis du Rhône today

The Breathe Project
The Respire project (Recruitment monitoring network) is part of the European framework directive “strategy for the marine environment”. The member states of the European Union must act in order to achieve the good ecological status of all the marine waters for which they are responsible by 2020. The establishment of the RESPIRE monitoring network aims to contribute to this effort monitoring. Twenty-three Mediterranean ports have been chosen to receive “BioHuts”, artificial habitats serving as shelters and food support for young fish. This project, although it is not intended to restore the nursery function of the ports, is a new tool for monitoring the quality of ports in terms of biodiversity and the abundance of young recruits. The project began experimentally in the spring of 2015 in Port Saint Louis du Rhône and will now take place over several years.

Events and festivities
The city claims more than 200 festive events each year.

Market: Wednesday (Avenue du Port in the city center).
Vegetable and fish market: Saturday (Halle Cessieux at Faubourg Hardon).
Fair: early August.
Santons fair: December.
Local festival: third Sunday in July (bull race, folklore, jousting).
Neighborhood festival: in June, for Saint-Louis.
Les Mercredis du Port: four Wednesdays in July: street theater, circus, music and feasts on the harbor quays.
Les Envies Rhônements: Art / Nature festival every two years in several natural sites of Camargue in summer.
Les Deltaïques, festival on the Camargue and its delta.
Festival of the Camargue and the Rhone Delta, formerly Festival de l’Oiseau.
Bullfighting attractions.
Kitesurfing and sailing school.
Fishing school.
Equestrian centers.
The city is famous for its wind conditions which make it a popular place for speed attempts, as evidenced by the presence of L’Hydroptère in 2008.
It is a hotspot for kitesurfing in France. Alexandre Caizergues, originally from Port-Saint-Louis, broke the world speed sailing record for all categories in the fall of 2008 in Lüderitz (Namibia), becoming the second man to cross the 50 knot barrier.

Tags: France